With the federal election still too close to call and the final result potentially weeks away, the construction industry faces a period of renewed uncertainty. The current state of play means that the immediate future regarding the re-establishment of the ABCC and the enactment of the proposed Building Code 2014 are unknown. Master Builders therefore advises members not to commit themselves at this time to the certainty of an unsustainable CFMEU/Breakaway deal which delivers an increase of 15 per cent in wages over its two-year nominal life without meaningful productivity improvements.
Given the current uncertainty, Master Builders also advises members against initiating bargaining and reminds members that they should not provide a Notice of Employee Representational Rights (NERR) to their employees until a decision to commence bargaining has occurred. Members should note that even where the employer has provided an NERR, there is no obligation to agree to the terms of the CFMEU/Breakaway deal in its current form. Provision of an NERR simply means that you have agreed to commence negotiations, not that you have reached agreement.
Members should also note that on 30 June, Master Builders received an assessment from the Department of Employment on the Master Builders Association of Victoria Template for compliance with the proposed Building Code 2014. Whilst it is important to note that the assessment is only interim in nature, Master Builders is nonetheless satisfied that it can now provide members with a template that is both sustainable and compliant with the current and proposed versions of the Building Code. Whilst the Master Builders Association of Victoria Template is not agreed with the CFMEU, it serves as an important resource for those who may have commenced negotiations, but are not in a position to sign the CFMEU/Breakaway deal. Master Builders reminds members who commence a formal bargaining process with the CFMEU, that they are able to appoint Master Builders as their bargaining representative.
In the interim, Master Builders advises that those members holding the extant Industry EBA 2011-2015 (and who entered into it prior to 24 April 2014) remain compliant with both the current Building Code 2013 and the proposed Building Code 2014. Whilst such members are under no obligation to pass on any wage increase from 1 July 2016, they are free to choose to pass on a pay increase should they wish – provided that this is a decision they make voluntarily, and independently of any third party.
For members considering providing employees with a pay increase, one option is to give employees an interim increase (e.g. 2.5 per cent or 3 per cent) from a chosen date, with an offer to back-pay any additional amount ultimately agreed upon once a new enterprise agreement is in effect. It is strongly recommended that any such offer to employees be contingent on there being no loss of productivity.
Master Builders also advises members that there is currently high demand for assistance in negotiating genuine enterprise-level agreements with employees, without the involvement of the CFMEU. Members interested in commencing such a process are therefore encouraged to contact the IR Department for advice as soon as practicable to minimise any delay.
Members seeking further information or assistance should contact the IR Department on (03) 9411 4560.